Jim Sweney, Chris Campbell & Lori Duke at Lennie’s

After our anniversary dinner, my wife Sophia and I decided to catch some music and perhaps, actually (gasp) dance.  “Musicians Can’t Dance” says the sticker on my amp.  It’s true; we all went stag to dances to study the bands.
We opted to catch three great singers at Lennie’s, in the Trade Winds East.  We remember when it was originally Trader’s Cove.  When we arrived about 9 p.m., the place was already filling up.
There was no stage – there was a back bar and a front bar where the stage used to be – so we weren’t sure where to sit.  But – lo! – there appeared Ron Harry; an old friend of mine with whom I shared a house many years ago.  I always thought of Ron as a rather quiet gentleman who always looked like he just woke up.  Some of you may remember him as the doorman at the old Magician’s Theater.  People told me “That guy is scary!” and I had to chuckle to myself.  He does have guts, though.  Ron directed us to the best table and sat with us.

We were right in front of a speaker when Steely Dan came on, but the singer wasn’t Donald Fagen.  We looked up and saw Chris Campbell singing behind the front bar.  The dance floor filled quickly and Chris was schmoozed with a couple during the guitar solo.  Hey, get back to work!
Lori Duke sang ‘Wishing and Hoping” and “Back On the Chain Gang.”  Chris sang “The Way.”  I tried to throw him a curve and asked for “More Fastball.”
“Right,” he said. “They only wrote that one song.”
By the first break, the joint was full.  “A lot of these people are regulars; they’re here almost every night.  Some of them are in their seventies,” said Jim Sweney.  To be fair, wasn’t all old people, but there weren’t any teenagers.  Most of them loved to dance.
“We’re going to challenge Jim Downing and see if he knows who wrote this song,” Sweney said, breaking into “Give Me Just a Little More Time.”
I came up after the song and said “That was The Chairmen of the Board.”
“He got it – you can’t stump a musicologist,” Chris announced.
So I challenged them: “You got any Stylistics?”
They delivered on the very next song; that’s what I call fast, courteous musical service!  This was like getting a gourmet meal at a drive-thru.  They did probably the best song by one of the best soul vocal groups, “Betcha By Golly Wow”.  (I know it’s a dumb title, but it’s great music.)  Sweney, Campbell and Duke put some passionate three-part harmony together on it, with Lori taking the high lead.  They got so caught up in it that they kept harmonizing after the track faded away.
They dedicated “Crazy Love” to us; that was absolutely appropriate, and I did indeed dance with my wife.
Here you have the three best rock singers in town.  Jim Sweney has fronted several prominent bands, from The Great Danes to The Beserko Band and The Jumpshots.  Lori Duke was with Front Page News, Hoi Polloi and several other bands.  Chris Campbell led The Mystery Band for a good 15 years.
Sweney and Campbell have a band, too.  It includes Rob Armstrong on drums, Jimmy Strader on bass, Steve Hickerson on guitar, and they had John Glazer on keys, then Bingo Sloan on guitar and keys.  They only play a few dates a year.  Actually, there is a band’s worth of talent with these three singers, and most venues couldn’t really afford to have them with a band, though they would love to have real musicians behind them.
“But the upside is you can do anything,” said Chris.  True; if there’s a song he wants to do, he gets the backing track and he’s doing it that night.  He doesn’t have to wait for the band to learn it or struggle with the arrangement and the instrumentation.
Sweney and Campbell hooked up with Duke three years ago.  She was one of the first people in town to sing with backing tracks.  It pays pretty well, too; you have your band in a box.  Bill Snow has been doing this type of thing at The Woodland Lounge for several years.
Sweney took the mike and started into a slow song.
Sophia noted, presciently, “Up!  Sweney’s singing a ballad.  Watch the girls gather around.”  And sure enough, stag chicks wandered up to the front and wistfully watched him sing.  I mentioned this to Chris. 
“And when I sing a ballad, the girls come up and watch Sweney,” he joked.  Sweney has always been a chick magnet and we all tease him about it, but he’s never been one to take advantage of that – which makes him even more magnetic.  He blushes and laughs it off.
If you love good singing, four decades of hit songs, or if you love to dance and not have your ears hurting by 11 o’clock, we heartily recommend Sweney, Campbell and Duke.